September 25, 2021

Global News Archive

News archives from around the world.

‘Kyburz is directly in path’ of Caldor Fire as gusty winds push flames – San Francisco Chronicle

4 min read

Gusty winds pushed the voracious Caldor Fire northeast Saturday afternoon toward the tiny town of Kyburz, sending flames across Highway 50 in El Dorado County.

“We are experiencing increased winds, which is causing significant fire activity,” said Keith Wade, a Sacramento Fire Department captain who was acting as a spokesperson on the Caldor Fire response. “There is definitely progression of the fire … and the community of Kyburz is directly in its path.”

Kyburz has fewer than 200 residents and a relative handful of buildings, but it’s well known to Lake Tahoe visitors for its sign — “Welcome to Kyburz. Now Leaving Kyburz” — and its frequent use as a spot where drivers are required to pull over in snowstorms and put chains on their tires.

By Saturday afternoon, flames had crossed Highway 50 “at right about the Kyburz area,” said Incident Commander Dusty Martin during a community meeting. Martin said fire officials had “resources in the area and we are working this north side of Highway 50 pretty good right now.”

Martin said a smoke column laying over Highway 50 prevented aircraft from flying over the blaze on Saturday afternoon, but said a lot of fixed-wing aircraft have been able to drop fire retardant in other areas that saw experienced heightened fire activity.

Fire Season


The fire, which broke out Aug. 14, expanded to 90,107 acres by Saturday evening and remained 0% contained. The quick, wind- and drought-driven blaze already wiped out the small town of Grizzly Flats in El Dorado County, where it’s destroyed 245 structures and prompted several evacuation orders. It grew by 7,000 acres overnight and continued to darken skies and force the shutdown of the main route between the Bay Area and South Lake Tahoe.

Cal Fire and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office released a damage assessment map detailing the extent of destruction, with photos showing some homes with minor burn scars and others reduced to piles of gray debris, sometimes with only stone chimneys or fireplaces left standing.

After Caltrans’ announcement Friday afternoon to shut down roughly 40 miles of Highway 50, it remained largely closed to traffic between Pollock Pines and Meyers, including Echo Summit. Some local traffic was being allowed through. No estimated time for reopening of the highway was available.

“The fire remained active in all areas,” Cal Fire said in a statement. “Due to very dry fuel beds, the vegetation is igniting easily.”

Wade said the area, which has no recent history of wildfire, is drought-stricken, dense and bone-dry. Firefighters are reporting embers carried by the winds starting spot fires a half mile to a mile away.

Ben Newburn, an incident commander with the U.S. Forest Service, said during a community briefing that there was a “little bit of fire spread” south that was going against the wind, but the blaze is primarily spreading to the north and east.

Officials do not believe the Caldor Fire will merge with the Tamarack Fire, saying that is “highly unlikely.”

Heavenly Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe announced Saturday afternoon that it is closed for the summer “due to ongoing risk of wildfire to the Tahoe Region.”

Jeff Marsolais, the forest supervisor for the El Dorado National Forest, said Saturday that the confluence of fuel conditions that many fire officials “have never seen before,” compounded with red flag conditions, are why fire officials are seeing “hard runs” and spot fires across the fire line.

Marsolais said the conditions that firefighters are “up against are the worst in some places that we’ve ever seen.”

Authorities issued an evacuation order Saturday afternoon for the Caldor Fire for the areas south of Farmham Ridge Road and east of Bridgeport School Road to the Amador County line.

Aside from the closure of Highway 50, and smoke that’s diminished air quality, South Lake Tahoe has yet to be directly affected by the fire.

The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for large swaths of El Dorado, Placer, Nevada and Sierra counties, signaling weather events that could result in extreme fire behavior over the next 24 hours.

Farther north, the Dixie Fire grew to 717,308 acres by Saturday evening and had increased containment to 36%. That fire broke out on July 14 near Cresta Dam and the Feather River Canyon.

Firefighters were battling not only the persistent flames, but also gusting winds and a red flag warning expected to last into the night. Cal Fire said that a switch in wind direction on the east side of the blaze forced firefighters to scramble.

The Dixie Fire, which has been burning since July 14, was expected to be most active in the Westwood, Clear Creek Janesville, Milford, Taylorville and Genesee Valley areas, said Doug Ulibarri, spokesperson on the Dixie Fire. While the winds drive the flames, they also keep smoke from settling, allowing firefighters to use large fixed-wing air tankers to drop loads of bright orange fire retardant on the flames.

“We’re still fighting against Mother Nature, and she’s throwing her best punches at us,” Ulibarri said. “We’re fighting back, but it’s tough.”

San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Lauren Hernández contributed to this report.

Michael Cabanatuan and Steve Rubenstein are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: mcabanatuan@sfchronicle.com, srubenstein@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ctuan, @SteveRubeSF

Source Link

Leave a Reply

Copyright ©2016-2021 Global News Archive. All rights reserved.